Birthday location - 15-20 people, non-Licious
Rather it's coming up and I'm looking for a new place to have it this year. I've planned to have the dinner on July 11th, which falls right in the middle of Summerlicious. As such, with a big group, and having heard of how rushed restaurants are during 'Licious events, I'd prefer somewhere that isn't participating.
I'd prefer somewhere downtown, ideally no further north than Eglinton, and between Spadina and Yonge - and definitely TTC accessible, I'm willing to flex a bit on the boundaries though provided its easy to get to.
Food-wise - there are quite a few picky eaters in our group, and several people that will go with vegetarian or seafood options. Some of us are more adventurous than others, but I'd like to have some more mainstream options as well.
Somewhere with a nice ambiance, and where we won't feel too rushed and where we can dress up a bit.
There'll be about 15-20 people, and budget-wise I think it varies, some of the people in the group are students and as such watching their budgets...mains in the range of $20-30 excluding drinks and tax/tip.
Some of the ideas I had:
Insomnia - but I'm not sure if this is too casual for what I'm looking for
Tabule - I remember reading about someone having been to a birthday party here and having a good experience with communal style dining - plus Middle Eastern cuisine would really work for this group
I'd love to have done it somewhere like Terroni, but again, with the no substitutions rule, definitely not the place for this kind of group.
Does anyone have any other suggestions?
Thanks for the suggestions everyone!
I've decided on Tabule, as we really enjoyed the food and the owner was very accomodating of our needs and constraints. The ambience was great and service were great, and we're doing a set menu with communal platters and ordering dessert a la carte for those who want something sweet.
Also, after hearing about the fried eggplant on this site so often, we made sure to try it and I really really enjoyed it - and I usually don't like eggplant! That's definitely one of the appetizers for our dinner. I'm really looking forward to it now and relieved that I found a place that I like, and that all my guests will love.
Just an update on how my birthday event went! Thank you for all the suggestions!
We did a set price dinner for about 16 people with communal dishes of hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli, falafel, fried eggplant, kefte, shish tawouk, rice, salad and fries. The food was wonderful and the servings were extremely generous and everyone left stuffed. Everything tasted great as usual, and the service was excellent. Another nice touch that impressed me was while their beef and lamb are always halal, given the size of the group I was coming in with and the fact that most of us are muslim, the owner offered to order halal chicken for us as well given enough advance notice. I really felt she went out of her way to accomodate us and it was the kind of gesture that goes a long way, because I'll definitely be telling my friends and colleagues good things about the restaurant.
We weren't rushed at all and since we finished our meal about 15 min before the bellydancer came out, they told us we were welcome to stick around - unfortunately we had other plans after dinner so we couldn't but it was definitely nice not to be rushed out the door.
They also brought out a plate of baklava with a candle at the end of our meal which I thought was a nice touch as I wasn't expecting anything.
I've grown up in the Middle East, as did a lot of my guests, and after dinner, a lot of my friends commented that it was the best Middle Eastern food they'd had since coming to Canada. Combined with the warm service, I don't think the event could have gone any better and I know a lot of my friends are going to go back as the restaurant choice was a hit! One of my friends also commented on the quality of the martinis and felt they were among the best he's ever had - our waiter told us that they use freshly squeezed juices and apparently you can taste the difference!
I definitely encourage everyone to consider Tabule if you haven't been, I really can't think of any complaints about the event, and think its great to support restaurants such as this one where they really do work hard at what they do.
Coquine (Yonge b/w Eg and Davisville) has a private room (though not exactly sure of the size...too big perhaps?) and isn't doing Summerlicious. The menu would be about the right price and has a good variety of options (including "safe" options).
Just down the road is Grano, which is also not in SL. They have an area kinda halfway between the main restaurant and the back terrace that might be about the right size for your group. I've had group functions there before and they've done communal-dining for us, and it's been great.
I love Tabule, so it's a great option too (though there's no private or semi/private space if that's something that appeals to you).
All three options are pretty casual (Coquine probably the least so) but you could probably safely dress up a little bit, though leave the evening gowns at home...
Another thought I just had is Harlem. Would be very fun for a birthday (they even have live music upstairs on weekends). However, the menu is not entirely geared to picky eaters -- though there are some pretty safe options like fried chicken.
Or maybe Nota Bene? I still haven't been, but everyone seems to love it and you could definitely get dressed up a bit...
Oh, just had another thought... Vittorio's on Dupont (at Avenue Rd), perhaps? I haven't been to that location, but went to the Yonge and Davisville location a number of times before it closed. It was always pretty dependable, and had a lot of seafood options (for the pescaterians in your group). The reason I thought of it is it has a huge patio, so if it's nice weather they might even be able to seat your group outside (which would be a huge bonus if it were me!) Maybe someone who's visited that location could comment...
wow, thanks for the ideas
I've never been to Tabule so I'm actually going this week to try it out myself, I liked the decor - apparently they also have a bellydancer on weekends, is that any good? Might be a fun evening, and at least they have good food (compared to Sultan's Tent)
Coquine looks like a good option as well, seeing as I have time, I'm planning to check out some of these places myself before making a decision. I think Nota Bene might be a bit too much for this group but I've been meaning to go as well after hearing the reviews on this board. Harlem looks like a great place too, forgot about that one...thanks, I'll keep you guys posted on where I'm going.
The other thing I was thinking was of somewhere we can hang out after dinner, maybe a dessert place, I know there's a Demetre's by Tabule.
What about making a reservation at MoRoCo for dessert, I'm not sure how late they're open...or maybe Panorama. We don't have many drinkers in our group though so its hard to find a place that offers the dessert but where we won't be out of place with no one really ordering any alcohol.
I love Il G, but it would be difficult to seat 15-20 people inside.
If you're willing to go west of Spadina, Cafe Novecento might be a possibility for dessert and coffee after dinner .http://www.blogto.com/cafes/novecento St. Clair W has lots of options for dinner, such as Marcello's, Ferro, Mezzetta, Vanipha Lanna, Trattoria da Gianni e Maria, the Rushton. It's accessible on the TTC by bus or streetcar.
You could also see if Coquine would take a reservation for dessert, if you like the idea of a French dessert after Middle Eastern food.
Or Grano for dessert, maybe in their back patio. I've had a decent crostata and espresso at Grano post-Tabule before, but it is somewhat unusal to go to Grano just for dessert. They do serve gelato as well.
Grano desserts: http://www.grano.ca/pdfs/desserts.pdf
Tabule also serves several Middle Eastern desserts. If I was eating at Tabule, I'd lean toward eating dessert there.
The apple tart I had at Panorama on my one visit was ordinary, about the same level as you'd expect at the Second Cup, at triple the price.